We have been taught from a young age about gender norms. Girls have to be polite, submissive, and the like. Although men have more freedom in some aspects of life than women, they too have different forms of societal pressure that influence their lives negatively. In addition, certain topics are taboo and pressures such as buying contraceptives (especially as a young person), not getting married & having kids soon (for women), women being shamed for not staying home to take care of kids instead of working, and more.
It is well known that women have more societal pressures that range from being judges by the way they talk, walk, dress, act, behave, and more. Million of women/girls across the globe are barred from basic education, health, rights, and exposed to violence & discrimination. All caused by negative and outdated social norms.
Some include early/forced marriage, marriage by abduction, female genital mutilation (FGM), bride price/dowry, virginity testing, cat-calling, and body shaming. Sometimes it can lead to violence if a woman won’t adhere to social standards or a person’s expectations, like murder, acid violence, and rape. In some cases, women are programmed to think a certain way and therefore feel they have to adhere to social standards or they won’t have value. Some women take extreme measures like cosmetic mutilation, breast flattening, or enlarging. All these can not only lead to physical harm and distress but also mental as well.
For more information on harmful cultures against women, such as Early or forced marriage, FGM, catcalling, and body shaming, please click Harmful Cultures against Women.
Men are expected to be tough, show little to no emotion, have “masculine” jobs, not speak about how they feel or have been hurt, and more. If a man veers to the emotional or expressive side, he is deemed too feminine. If he’s too aggressive, he needs to calm down. Some expect men to work long hours away from their families, which results in a lesser bond between father and child.
Men go through several mental turmoil that some don’t even share with their closest friends. This increases the risk of developing mental issues such as aggression, depression, narcissism, and many more that can go unrecognized because of the lack of awareness. This in turn affects women because there are many reported situations where a man’s issues are projected on to the women and vice versa, causing a chain reaction of predictable and unpredictable results. Some can go as far as a psychotic break and physical violence.
- Promoting SRH in our community
We’re aware of the traditional/social norms that negatively affect women and men. But how can we change it? Almost all gender norms can be traced back decades or centuries ago. Negative practices or gender norms inhibit and poison our way of living. This is why we have to change the narrative. Some ways include educating the public, providing financial support & donations like birth control, increasing health centers, and revising policies around SRH.
When people are well informed, they are able to make wise decisions to improve their lives, both physically and mentally. In addition, when people are financially supported or free, they will more likely be motivated to take an active role in their health. If we don’t understand what kinds of issues affect us both directly and indirectly, then we won’t know how to fix them. And it is only when we secure ourselves that we can help everyone around us.
Things are constantly changing, and we must understand that the basis of any relationship, whether with onself or others, is having emotional intelligence and being able to deal with difficulties in a healthy way. This way, we don’t project onto others and cause ourselves & the people around us pain and suffering. We must be aware of the expectations we place on men and how they respond to pressure. In addition, by being well-informed and equipping people with the necessary materials (educational & physical), we can impact the community as a whole.